I have a confession to make, I still worry about getting access needs wrong, so it’s no wonder non disabled people can often feel completely out of their depth with this too.
Access is an incredibly personal thing and I am a true believer of the idea that you will never truly understand access issues until you face them. I never really understood how important drop curbs were until I bought my mobility scooter and had to launch myself off pavements without them (it’s not as fun as it sounds and breaks your back!) but what I found is there is a wealth of information out there and some amazing people who are really breaking it down and making it, well, accessible!
There are two resources that I think are really important to talk about.
The first one is the Access Is Love hashtag. I had seen it floating around Instagram for a while and had always thought it was a good way of explaining access to people but hadn’t really dug into what it was all about.
First of all it’s more than a hashtag it’s a whole website with loads of resources and further reading. It’s run by Mia Mingus, Alice Wong and Sandy Ho. They have a wonderful places to start section of the site that lists things such as using camel case hashtags and doing access check ins (where you just ask people if they need anything that can help them access your services). These things seem small and simple but they make a massive difference.
The more I have learned about access the more I think it’s not about whether you get it right, it’s more about making an environment where people feel they can ask for their access needs. That can just be as simple as someone putting it on their website that they are happy to help with your access requirements.
Talking of websites, my second favourite resource is Shaws Trust. They are a charity that help businesses check for free how accessible their website is. They have a team with a diverse range of disabilities and will give you tips on how to make your website more accessible. If you own a small business or know someone who does, send them the link!
This has been a really interesting point that I came across while researching and it’s really made me think about how I speak about access.
I so often hear myself and others saying things like ‘you should really caption videos on social media because it’s not just deaf people who use them, most Facebook and Instagram videos are watched with sound off because people are at work’.
And yes this is a really good way to force people into doing these things because they see a benefit to themselves however it also takes away the idea that it’s important to do these things because it means disabled people are included.
I think the best analogy is when you look at it from a feminist point of view and the advice given to women about writing emails. Often women will start emails with an apology like ‘so sorry I am only just getting back to you’. Where as in feminist circles we tell women to write something like ‘thank you for bearing with me’. Instead of starting with you apologising for the inconvenience the able bodied person might feel at having to think about access in the first place (which really is just selfish…) we should instead be leading with thanking them for making it possible for us to participate. This way it implies that access is a requirement not an after thought.